I’m reading Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace, the new book by Ayelet Waldman that officially hits bookstores on Tuesday, May 5. Ayelet has been gifted with wit, audacity and dare I say it, some serious balls! This new book follows on the heels of her highly controversial essay, Mother Love.
I want to discuss this book with YOU. It is at the core of our experience as moms and women… yeah, that’s YOU! Download a FREE copy of Chapter One below and let’s talk!!!
Waldman minces no words that Bad Mother is a reaction to being raked over the coals in mommy blogs and mainstream media and essentially being condemned (along with others like Britney Spears) as a “bad mother” herself. Note that not unlike the Salem Witch Trials, judge and jury in Waldman’s case were other moms!
“They speculated publicly, down in the toxic mud of the comments sections on blog pages, that I was crazy, evil, a menace, that my children should be taken away from me. They cross-examined me on the set of Oprah. And New York City’s elite Bad Mother SWAT team, the warrior shrews of urbanbaby.com, sank their pointy little incisors into my metaphorical ankles.”
What inspired such vitriolic reactions from the Mom Police? Waldman’s confession in the New York Times that she loves her husband more than her kids. That’s all. Yes, I said “that’s all” because it seems like one of those “Of course. Basic Truth.” things to me. I mean, that is why I made the horrific and gut-wrenching decision to end my 11-year marriage to the father of my children and one of my best friends because I felt with all of my being that my relationship wasn’t/couldn’t model marital love for my kids. But I digress….
So Ayelet penned Bad Mother, a fascinating read, if I do say so. My copy is scribbled up with notes and underlines. My thoughts could comprise a novella itself. With will power and discipline, I will focus on ONE message that really spoke to me and invite YOU to join in conversation. This book hits home HARD for me and I will bet will hit home with EVERY MOM I KNOW!
1) First thing’s first… how do we discuss a book you haven’t read, right? With very little arm-twisting, Ayelet has agreed to share Chapter One of the book for FREE. Give us your first name and email below so we can send you the chapter. Confirm the opt-in message and a follow up will be sent to your email with an attachment immediately. I assure you, Chapter One will have your head-nodding, your blood-boiling or, in some confusing irrational way, BOTH… as was my case. So enter just your first name and email address here…
(no spamming, renting or selling of names, per usual)
2) I’m not going it alone here. In the My Mommy Manual spirit of collaboration, I am engaging not just my amazing, wonderful partner in shenanigans, Suzanne Tucker (@Zen Mommy) but three other brave, empowered, outspoken moms from around the ‘sphere:
Jen Wright (@MissIve),
Leigh Caraccioli (@fleurdeleigh),
Morgan Siler (@modernsinglemom).
I’ve linked to their websites and Twitter streams above!
3) And for the piece de resistance… Ayelet Waldman (@ayeletw) herself is joining us here (scroll down to the very bottom) in our virtual space on MONDAY, May 11 at 11am CST/9 am PST to banter/discuss/defend her latest project! Zen Mommy and I will be coordinating a video skype conference with Ayelet, Jen, Leigh and Morgan and broadcasting via Ustream. The chatroom will be available too BUT to lessen the confusion, we want to collect as many of your questions and comments ahead of time.
I want your thoughts! Yes, I do. And yes, we are dragging Ayelet back down into the potentially “toxic mud of the comments section.” Read her Bad Mother web page. Read Chapter One. Then leave a COMMENT below.
And now for my 2 cents…
WHAT’S WITH ALL THE BULLYING?!
When I first heard about Ayelet’s Oprah incident I was horrified and fascinated at the same time. What could someone say… what thought, philosophy or word could possible generate such visceral and violent reactions? That was the fascination part. Then I was horrified and saddened that a woman could be judged and condemned by another woman.
@johnhaydon, a wonderful friend, reminds me in my occasional moments of crises that we call to ourselves people who mirror our own internal dialogue. Hmmm… interesting. Ayelet proves this to be true. All the people pointing fingers at her saying “Bad mother!!!!” did in fact hit a nerve and caused her to pause and wonder whether or not their claims had any merit. She admits very readily that she is guilty of passing judgment on herself! So much so that she wrote a whole book! I will now posit that each woman who is drawn to this book at bookstores or after seeing it yet again on Oprah (at some point) or who downloads her Chapter 1 here, also passes judgment on herself. We are all drawn to this book because it is our mirror. This title, these words… we say them… over and over, unconsciously and sometimes even consciously, to ourselves.
Ayelet says it’s because “good mother” is fiction, it’s an impossible standard that we’ve invented in our fantasies. And because it is something we cannot live up to, the scheidenfreud of watching the really bad train wrecks like the Britneys and the Andrea Yateses make us feel just a little better! You know, “At least I’m not HER!!! How could she??!” But what does that make us? Bullies. We become those evil, malicious middle school girls who take pleasure in the discomfort of other middle school girls because we are insecure ourselves.
In that beautiful way of serendipity, I stumbled on a video from Behavioral Pediatrician, Dr. Tim Jordan (one of my local idols) who addresses the issue of bullying. In the segment, he says that the words that tend to hurt are the ones that you tend to believe a little bit. When he works with kids he points out, “What if someone calls you a tomato? How do you feel?” They laugh and think it’s silly because it’s absolutely not true. But when bullies call them stupid or a nerd, then it stings. Jordan counsels parents to help kids accept who they are and love who they are so that when someone calls them a name, they can tell themselves, “It’s just a word. It’s a tomato word.”
“Bad Mother!” These are the tomato words we say all too often to ourselves and even us nice ones (ha!)… yes, I admit it… I’ve snickered about someone whose kid is out of control or has said something hateful in public! And yes, it makes the times I’ve locked myself in my bedroom to get away from being the referee in the sibling war seem… not so bad or at least, not so unusual.
So how do we lay off other moms? Start with accepting and loving who WE are. Forgiving ourselves!
That’s a tough assignment, though. In this post for my friend Joy, How to Embrace Your Weaknesses, I share my own am-I-a-good-mom internal dialogue. Share yours! It’ll make ME feel better!
Here’s the recording! We want YOU to join the conversation! We reeaaaaaaaally do!!! We’ll be back next week for more discussion about BAD MOTHER on MONDAY, MAY 18, 11am CST (same bat time, same bat channel).
If you would rather listen to the skype audio only… (no echo!), click HERE!
One of our mommies said this about this morning’s event…
“Let me push you to doing more of these b/c they are fantastic. I really loved how honest the conversation was. I think women in particular need to reclaim our “gut level” instinct & not be afraid to be honest & real no matter what people think we “should” do.”